By Reilly Reis
It is only our second day in Israel, but I am quickly falling in love with the rich culture and history of God’s Holy Land. It seems that everywhere you turn there is something of religious or historical significance. Today we walked into Old City Jerusalem, which was truly a remarkable experience. The city of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters. The Christian Quarter is the Northwest Quarter, the Muslim Quarter is located in the Northeast corner, the Armenian Quarter is the Southwest portion of the Old City Jerusalem, and the Jewish Quarter is located in the Southeast corner. We had the privilege of walking through all four quarters and it was truly fascinating to see the distinct cultures and religions that characterize each unique quarter! Buildings, road signs, and religious places of worship vary from quarter to quarter. It was quite neat to see these very distinct cultural and religious groups living so close to one another. Throughout our walk we learned about the design of the city and the large amount of development and construction that has happened within the city since Biblical times. Some highlights from our day would be visiting the Pools of Bethesda, listening to groups sing in the majestic Church of St. Anne (The mother of Mary), walking a part of the Via Dolorosa, and experiencing the lively bazaars of Old City Jerusalem. Walking the Via Dolorosa, which is the path that Jesus was said to have taken when he carried the cross to Cavalry, was kind of surreal. The experience became much more real when we saw a group of people carrying a cross and chanting prayers together. I could not help but watch and listen as they passed by. Another phenomenal experience was viewing and exploring the remains of the Pools of Bethesda. Being able to climb down and surround yourself with ruins that are thousands of years old is such an eye-opening experience. The Pools of Bethesda are mentioned in the book of John, chapter 5, when Jesus heals a paralytic. Physically viewing and experiencing the empty pools, along with the keen insight of Professor Shultz, allowed me to gain a better understanding of the passage and its historical context. Old City Jerusalem may be full of history, but it is also overflowing with life. The busy streets, the endless shops, and the constant movement that fills the city is like nothing that I have ever experienced before! I can not wait to see what God has in store for me during these next three weeks!